Michigan robber incident brings out best in news



When you boil it down, journalism is all about disseminating information to the public. But sometimes, it seems all too often we journalists spend so much of our time trying to be first with a scoop that we forget the very reason we’re in business.

Look at the CNN coverage of the Boston Bombing – they were the first to declare there was a suspect in the hospital, which later turned out to be false. In their haste to be first, they lost sight of the need for accurate reporting.

This is by no means the first time such a claim has happened, nor will it be the last.

This was in direct contrast to my experience this past week with, of all things, the Michigan bank robber who committed suicide in Alpharetta.

It turns out I was one of the first news people on the scene as Alpharetta police ended the chase. Because of this, Northfulton.com was the first to report the incident, which made the rounds online and was shared and reposted.

A lot of people in Michigan saw the article and reacted to it online. Here was a man who had terrorized their banks for days, and they finally knew he was gone and not coming back – if not for this incident, those people might never have known what happened to him.

This concern was reflected in the press of the Michigan media, who quickly picked up on our article. I started getting calls and emails from Michigan news outlets asking for information and in return, sharing with me information from their end about the robberies.

This sharing of information does not happen often. Part of the reason those papers were so eager to help me (and I them) was not just because we don’t compete with each other. We joined together in an attempt to pursue the greater good – a more complete story. By ourselves, we could not quickly and easily complete the story. Because of this, the story we put out – both here and in Michigan – was better for it.

North Fulton residents got background on a shocking story, and Michigan residents found relief in the knowledge their banks were safe again.

The responses online to the story came from both witnesses in Alpharetta as well as people the robber terrorized in Michigan.

“I’m glad I no longer need to worry about going to the bank since three of the banks he robbed are very close to me. One of those banks, I use. It’s just too bad he killed himself instead of getting arrested,” wrote “Fawn,” from Melvin, Mich., on Northfulton.com.

“It is sad that he chose to end his own life, rather than face the consequences of his behavior. Condolences to his family and also to the people that he affected and traumatized throughout his reign of robbing and terrorizing innocent people. Prayers for all!” wrote “Michigander.”

The people of St. Claire County, Mich., were able to have some closure because of this story. Now they can take comfort that these robberies have stopped for good and have not just paused.

That’s what the news is all about.

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